- Beautiful Redemption
Sirens echoed in the distance.
Sawyer shoved his hands in his pants pockets. “I guess they found the fight they were looking for.”
“Maybe it was the people they had a run-in with earlier?”
Sawyer shrugged. “Not my jurisdiction.”
A police cruiser arrived within minutes, followed soon after by an ambulance. We told them what we knew, and once we offered them credentials, we were free to leave.
Sawyer walked me to the lobby and gave me a hug.
“Sure you don’t want me to walk you home?” I asked. “Whoever did that could still be out there.”
Sawyer chuckled. “Shut up, Lindy.”
“Good night. See you tomorrow.”
“Nope. I’ll be out.”
“Oh, right. The, uh…the thing,” I said. My head was fuzzy. I was glad we’d decided to leave the bar when we did.
“I’m tailing one of our Vegas sources, Arturo.”
“Benny’s guy? Why is he in San Diego?” I asked.
“Benny sent him to visit his new Eastern family. I’m making sure he stays on the straight and narrow. I don’t want the Yakuza guys to scare him into disclosing or alerting them to our interest.”
“Sounds very official.”
“It always is. Night.”
Sawyer pushed out of the lobby doors, and I turned to press the elevator button. It was smudged with fresh blood. I glanced around and then used the inside of my blazer to clean it.
The doors slid open, the chime pleasant and welcoming, but when I stepped inside, my heart sank. The button for the sixth floor was smeared with blood as well.
Again, I used my blazer to hide the evidence, and then I waited impatiently for the doors to open. I stomped out and walked straight to Thomas’s door, banging on the metal. When he didn’t answer, I banged again.
“Who is it?” Thomas asked from the other side.
“Liis. Open the fuck up.”
A chain rattled, the bolt lock clicked, and then Thomas opened his door. I pushed through, shouldering past him, and then twirled around, crossing my arms.
Thomas had an ice pack on his right hand and a bloody bandage on his left.
“Christ! What did you do?” I said, reaching for his bandage.
I carefully peeled it away from his weeping raw knuckles and then looked up at him.
“The racist bastards insulted you.”
“So, you tried to beat them to death?” I shrieked.
“No, that came after I heard them casually mention that they hoped your route home included a dark alley.”
I sighed. “C’mon. I’ll clean you up.”
“I got it.”
“Wrapping and icing doesn’t constitute cleaning. You’re going to get an infection in your joints. Does that sound like fun?”
Thomas and I went into his bathroom. He sat on the edge of the tub, holding up both of his hands in loose fists.
He nodded toward the sink. “Underneath.”
I pulled out a clear plastic container, unsnapped it, and opened it wide, poking through the various items. “Peroxide?”
“You can punch two full-grown men until the skin sheds off your knuckles, but you can’t handle a few seconds of a fizzy burning sensation?”
“In the medicine cabinet. The mirror pulls open.”
“I know. Mine, too,” I deadpanned.
“I tried to walk home without—”
“Some people are belligerent, predatory assholes their entire lives until one person comes along and beats the shit out of them. It gives them a new perspective.”
“Is that what you’re calling it? You think you did them a favor.”
He frowned. “I did the world a favor.”
I poured the hydrogen peroxide over his injuries, and he sucked air through his teeth as he jerked his hands back.
I sighed. “I just can’t believe you lost your shit like that over a stupid insult and an empty threat.”
Thomas leaned his face toward his shoulder and used it to wipe his cheek, smearing two small specks of blood.
“You should probably bathe in this,” I said, holding up the big brown bottle in my hands.
I grabbed tissue from the toilet paper roll and soaked it in the disinfectant. “Because I’m fairly certain that’s not your blood.”
Thomas looked up, seeming bored.
“I’m sorry. Would you like me to leave?” I asked.
“Actually, I would.”
“No!” I snapped.
“Oh! That insults you.”
I dabbed at his wounds with a clean cotton ball. “Strangers can’t hurt my feelings, Thomas. People I care about can.”
His shoulders sagged. He suddenly looked too tired to argue.
“What were you doing at Cutter’s?” I asked.
“I’m a regular there.”
I frowned. “You haven’t been.”
“I needed a drink.”
“Bad Monday?” I asked, wondering if there was ever a good one.
He hesitated. “I called Travis on Friday.”
“April Fools’ Day?” I asked. Thomas gave me a few seconds. “Oh! His birthday.”
“He hung up on me.”
Right when I said the word, Thomas jerked his hand back.
“Son of a—” He pressed his lips together, the veins in his neck swelling, as he strained.
“Sorry.” I flinched.
“I miss you,” Thomas said quietly. “I’m trying to keep it professional at work, but I can’t stop thinking about you.”
“You’ve been kind of a bear. People are likening it to the days just post-Camille.”
He laughed once without humor. “There’s no comparison. This is much, much worse.”
I concentrated on wrapping his wounds. “Let’s just be glad that we didn’t let this get too far.”
He nodded. “You should definitely be glad. I wasn’t that smart.”
I let my hands fall to my lap. “What are you talking about? You told me two weeks ago that you couldn’t love me.”
“Liis…do you have feelings for me?”